Wednesday, December 31, 2008

I find this interesting.

It makes me think about blogging.
And journaling.
And of all those pictures I take, at least 25% of which (you won't see these on the blog, you're welcome) are of stuff lying in the street.

What are we really doing here, anyway?
What compells me to save these things -
these ideas, these combinations of words, this stuff that I've already used up?

Yeah, I don't know either. I got nothin', as they say.

But I'll still be doing it next year. I'm pretty confident of that.

God's peace in 2009.
Thanks for looking through muh rubbish. With me.


Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Finally, a recipe!

You thought I would never shut up about the panic attacks, did you? Well, more coverage of my pathetic mental state is no doubt upcoming, but I made a really good dinner tonight! It's alarmingly healthy and really, really delicious!

Christmas Leftover Pasta.

Set 2 pots of lightly salted water to boil, and heat a large cast-iron skillet.

When the frying pan is hot, pour in a glug of olive oil.
Slice one large onion into medium slices, and drop them into the pan.
Add a bit of salt and pepper.

You are carmelizing these onions. The classic way to do this is explained with beautiful simplicity here. I always cheat a little - throw a quarter-cup of water and cover at the start, which I think softens them a little faster with less chance of burning. But you have to uncover them for most of the cooking, or they never carmelize. Anyway, you're cooking those until they are soft, much smaller, dark brown, and sticky. It'll take a while.

When one pot of water boils, add about 10 brussel sprouts (cleaned, stemmed, halved or quartered), plus whatever leave have fallen off into the Tupperware, and several handfuls of fresh broccoli florets. Let these boil for a few minutes, until they are brilliant green but still pretty hard.

When the other pot boils, cook a little pasta - I used 1 cup of Barilla Plus multigrain rotini, which takes at least 10 minutes to cook.

When the onions are completely limp and brown, push them to the sides of the pan and pour a small amount of olive oil into the center. Drain the vegetable and drop them into that pool of olive oil for sauteeing.

When the pasta is done, drain that (save a little liquid) and add the drained pasta to the pan. Mix everything together and add a little more salt. Turn off the heat.

Let it mingle for a couple minutes, serve in bowls. Really good with a sprinkle of pine nuts.

This would be great with some mushrooms in it, and it would work great with fresh spinach or chard, I think. Even Ian ate it! Well, not the sprouts, but everything else. This makes 2 generous entree portions.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

I think this might actually help me.

I bought a giant (8.5x11, for me that is giant - I've been on the 5x8 format since 1988, when I bought my first daytimer at Price Club on Security Blvd). Anyway, I bought this giant but otherwise not particularly distinguished datebook for 2009, because I need a lot of room to write because I need to keep track of basically everything on the earth - my schedule, work deadlines, availability of church volunteers, Eric's gigs, Eric's social life, Ian social life for crap's sake.

What about my social life? you may well ask. Well, it's in there too, though it does not require a lot of room to write.

Which is largely by my own choice. I like to work, I like to hang with my husband, I like to read, I like to cook. I even like spending time with my kid, (although jeez! He needs to back off a little! He's getting awfully possessive. Frankly, I could use some space in that relationship.) Socializing has fallen far, far to the bottom of the list. And I'm not aware of missing it, usually. (Unlike, say, the time alone to write/read/think, without which I become observably twitchy.)

But I suspect that I actually need it, on some unacknowledged level. At least something low-impact, like going to my knitting group occasionally, and chatting with people who do not know me well and do not expect anything from me. Just hanging out.

(Hmmm. Except the last time I went to knitting, which was MONTHS ago, I was outed as a religious professional and got into a huge deep spiraling conversation about death.)

(Except - I liked that. It was actually stimulating and there was good give and take, and I think I helped the person a little.)

All I can say is, the last third of 2008 has been doing its level best to KICK MY ASS, and I am still here,"... hard pressed on every side, but not crushed; perplexed, but not in despair (most of the time)...struck down, but not destroyed."

(I wasn't planning on quoting this next part, because I don't understand it - "We always carry around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be revealed in our body." I don't understand that intellectually - I couldn't put into my own words what point Paul was trying to make - but I kind of feel that sentence in my bones. It rings true on some non-rational level.)

Okay, here's where I go all Christian-y on you. Sorry, I know this will not mean anything to most people, even followers...but the end of that chapter (2nd corinthians, incidentally my favorite book, chapter 4) says something I hope I can come to believe:

So we're not giving up. How could we! Even though on the outside it often looks like things are falling apart on us, on the inside, where God is making new life, not a day goes by without his unfolding grace. These hard times are small potatoes compared to the coming good times, the lavish celebration prepared for us. There's far more here than meets the eye. The things we see now are here today, gone tomorrow. But the things we can't see now will last forever.

Saturday, December 27, 2008

yeah, What she said.

My house is warm. This morning, my lucky kids have presents. I have presents, and we're having a great big breakfast. (To be followed later by more presents and a great big dinner.) No matter how bad things get here, we will not be competing with 98% of the world for misery. Having trouble finding the money for car or washing machine repairs is a luxury. Having loved ones to miss speaks to the great gift of loving and having been loved.

My children did not miss a single meal this year. We didn't flee from a war, we didn't need medical help and not get it. We have a computer and an internet connection, for crying out loud. The fact that I bought any yarn at all, even if it had been a single ball (which it so wasn't. I cop to that.) means I had extra money. I have people to take care of, and people who take care of me

Christmas thoughts from a great blog, Yarn Harlot by knitting teacher/writer/designer Stephanie Pearl-McPhee.

We had a wonderful holiday visit, and great Christmas eve services, and I am still beat.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

fa la la la la, la la la ARRRRRRRR.

1. Ian wants to be a pirate for Christmas. (It's my impression that 'fancy dress' events mark many holidays in the UK, and so hundreds of little Ians probably are pirates for Christmas.)

2. Its the 23rd, so of course we just watched Seinfeld in syndication. May I say that the Festivus episode (actual title, The Strike) represents a pinnacle of smart-assery to which all of us amateur smart asses aspire: to have a family inside joke adopted as a holiday in households all over the world. In my family, a rough equivalent would be if the Mitchell Family Greeting (kermit-like arm flailing, open mouthed head rocking) or the Miller-Mitchell All-Purpose Note ("Gun noot. B. Bacson.") somehow came into universal use. Even my own household does not adhere to these customs.

3. This reminds me of a David Sedaris story, one that I feel so close to my own heart that I cannot even remember where it's from, presumably one of the early popular works like Barrel Fever. David and his many siblings, in adulthood, have gathered for a family holiday, and are staying at a motel. Some circumstance (perhaps they won't smoke in front of their mother, who has cancer) has them sitting outside by a dumpster, sneaking cigarettes in a drizzle. Their father shouts out from the motor court patio at them: "You know what's wrong with you kids?"
and they answer, in a single, exhausted voice, "yeah, we're SPOILED."

The first time I read this, I gasped, caught in perfect tension between snorting laughter (because damn, that's hysterical) tears (at the realness) and blind astonished envy at the writing. I tried to read it to Eric immediately, which came to nothing because I couldn't squeak out a sound.

After several minutes, I calmed down and read it to him, and now it's quoted quite frequently.

Hummph: The Muppet Show, The House at Pooh Corner, and David Sedaris. Add to this The Long Secret (which is where my brother and I learned to turn to one another and say "Jesus hates you.") and it's a pretty good overview of the cultural influences on my upbringing.

Merry Christmas. Should we ever get around to it, we'll post something or other at

Saturday, December 20, 2008

busy kitchen 2

just knocked over an 8 oz bag of coffee beans onto my kitchen floor.

painstakingly picked up the beans, many of them one by one, finger and thumb, and then rinsed a collander-full in cool water.

These beans came all the way from Ethiopia to make me caffienated. They were roasted by a friend of mine.

I'm not going to keep them from their destiny just because of a little kitchen floor dirt. Far be it from me to stand in their way.

Also, my kitchen smells AWESOME.

Busy Kitchen yesterday:

a couple batches of these, for neighborhood distribution and church on Sunday

8 loaves of bread - a couple of loaves burned! which has never happened to me before! Weird!

plus a double batch of this, which I would make again with sharper cheese

and a pound of this, which needed more hot peppers. I didn't have the tiny red peppers I used last time, which come from a houseplant...guess I should have stopped by the auto shop and checked to see if the plant was still producing. My store-bought peppers reflect my timidity in these matters - I am terrible at getting the peppery-ness right.

The salad and the cassarole were for a party, where all the food was amazing. I also totally lucked out at the competitive gift exchange (Is this a southern thing? I never heard of this activity until I moved to the dc area. You know, where you draw numbers, and then, when your turn comes, you can either take a wrapped gift or poach someone else's desirable gift? It can be totally cut-throat - last night was hilarious, but moderately civilized- and it definately is entertaining and revealing of character.)

Anyway, I ended up with a cookbook and placemats! So we can eat our seasonal produce on handloomed indigeousnous textiles. That totally rules.

It also totally rules because the gifts we contributed were very popular, totally in keeping with the theme (good for the recipient, good for the world) and as close to free as humanly possible. I made a reusable string grocery bag (it actually wasn't finished yet - I put it in the box with the needles and a note) and a couple organic free-trade dark chocloate bars. (Expensive for candy bars, but very cheap for a Christmas gift.)

Both these gifts were extremely hotly contested, poached as many times as the rules would allow. Because, in the competitive gift exchange, I'm totally not competitive about getting gifts - I'm competitive about contributing desirable gifts, as confirmation of how damn clever I am. Not that anyone necessarily has to know it was me. I just have to know. It's satisfying.

Should you be competitive in this way too, here's a hint for next year:
It is impossible to go wrong with chocolate.

Saturday, December 13, 2008

no casualties

A couple of years ago, after our first trip to the beach with our little darling, I quoted Heather Armstrong of Dooce as saying that traveling with a toddler equals SUFFERING. Oh, I avered, it was rough, but I wouldn't go so far as to characterize it as SUFFERING.

I was wrong.

I just spent the night in a glorious luxury hotel in Winchester, VA, where my husband had a gig. We ate gourmet dinners and breakfasts, stayed in a room with a wonderful bed with fabulous, million-thread-count linens, and a lovely rainfall shower. The pool was the kind of pool I dream about - the basement pool, with soft lighting and pillars coming up out of it and caryatids and a fountain. And a hot tub. And towels that would have been worth stealing.

In a town where the streets are filled with...yarn shops! Bead stores! Wine bars! Places full of handmade toys! Sidewalk cafes. Lovely old-fashioned Christmas decor.

I wanted to throw myself in front of a train.

Which I could have - they came though every couple of hours, past the beautifully restored train stone station. Even my tragic death would have been quaint and stylish.

Here's what the thing is, The books all say that kids love routine. Kids thrive on routine.

My kid HATES routine, all routine, with the burning heat of a thousand suns. He screams, he argues, occasionally he kicks...if he's in an unusually vile mood, he has been known to try to bite the person who is enforcing routine. (That would be me.)

There's just one thing worse. Guess what.

That's right. A disruption of rountine.

When Ian's routine is disrupted, he believes that this means all mores of civilized behavior are suspended. That it's okay to leap up and down on an upholstered banquette, to talk back to your parents, to see how loud you can scream, to never sleep. to stand in your crib and shout at people at 11pm. And again at 4:30. And again at 6:22.

I don't think we'll be allowed to stay there again any time soon.

I am very proud that I was able to administer some discipline (not that it seems to have made an impression) with appropriate self-restraint. I have said before - I don't beat my kid, but I understand why some people do.

Well, I didn't really understand. Until this weekend.

Between the frustration, the exhaustion, and the more-than-two-hour drive on absolutely no one in our family should take our intact bodies for granted this evening.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Ladies and Gentlemen:

extensive research has led me to declare,
definitively and without fear of contradiction:
that this
is the World's Skankiest Christmas Record.
(in case you miss a lyric, read them here.)

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Classic Literature, abridged


Me: I am Sam! Sam I am! Would you like green eggs and ham?


Me: Okay, then.


Monday, December 08, 2008

No kidding.

'Tis the season, I confess, when I climb the radio dial from my usual favorites (AMU, PFW, RNR) and head up to the Easy Listening end of things. Yes, "WASHFM, home of your" absolutely horrifing "lite n' easy favorites"......plays Christmas music, nothing but Christmas music. from now until midnight on the 25th. And that's what I'm listening to.

Yeah, occasionally there's a tidbit that sends me lungeing for the switch. Today it was Rod Stewart injuring O Holy Night....but to be fair, all Rod Stewart songs send me lungeing, except Hot Legs. There's some terrible, terrible new version of So This is Christmas, sung by (I can only imagine) some American Idol person, which should never be played anywhere under any circumstances.

But I love Cydni Lauper and the ReAnimated Corpse of Frank Sinatra, singing a duet about Santa. I love any version of Baby It's Cold Outside, even if it's not David Johannsen. Of course there's way too much Mariah, but you occasionally get to hear something really great, like Ella or Etta. Or even Mel.

Plus they play the Porky Pig song, (which I find is not actually Mel Blanc at all but some small-market DJ) singing Blue Christmas in character and you can hear someone, presumably the recording engineer, laughing himself senseless in the background.

And they play Snoopy's Christmas.

They played it Saturday afternoon, when we were in the car. From the moment that I heard the first fakey sound-effects-record explosions, I was a goner.

"Mommy, is that song making you sad?" asked Ian from his car seat.


Because of Snoopy. Because this record came out when I was 5. Because I have heard it so many, many hundreds of times, and the record itself - not just the lyrics or the melody, not the weird random bass breakdown in the middle, but every pop and groove of the recording - is grooved into my brain. There is nothing sad about the song, nothing I can think of that I am longing for or missing that the song embodies. It doesn't bring some specific memory flooding back.

It's just that some things just hit you, like that little hard rubber hammer hitting you on the knee at the doctor's office. My brain has reflexes too, apparently. And nothing seems to slow them down.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

world's easiest cookie:

This is a cookie I remember from my childhood (from other kids' houses - I don't recall my dad making cookies at our house. Cakes yes - cookies, not that I can recall, except the sliced Pillsbury roll.)

Anyway, there are lots of complicated recipes for these on the web, but there's NO EXCUSE for working hard at making this cookie. 4 ingredients, 12 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350.
Grease a cookie sheet (spray grease is fine for this.)

Mix together:

1 cup peanut butter
(regular commercial stuff, smooth or crunchy - I've never tried it with natural peanut butter yet.)
1 cup granulated sugar (you could skimp on this; one recipe I saw suggested using Splenda, which I think would work fine, though I haven't tried.)
1 egg.

When completely mixed, roll into balls. Bake at 350 for 9-10 minutes. They don't turn brown, just look a little dryer.

While they're in the oven, unwrap some Hershey's kisses, dark or plain milk chocolate.

When you take the cookies out of the oven, remove them to a plate. and squish a kiss into the center of each.

Good warm, good cold. Good smooth, good crunchy. They even survive a little burn (I burned the first batch on Saturday. Still good.) Makes 18-24, depending on how big you make the balls.

this made me positively giddy:

When I journey, as a writer must, from town to town seizing people by the lapels to persuade them how effortlessly infectious my latest book is, they are too often not so curious about what is in the book. What they want to know is, how did I write it? Maybe they are scheming to run home and write my next one while I'm still out stirring up business. Even so, I feel I should respond.

"I'm not going to tell you," the novelist Donald Barthelme once said to an interviewer who asked him to reveal a certain narrative strategy, "because it's a secret."

"From whom?" asked his interviewer.

"From youm," said Barthelme.

Roy Blount Jr. in today's Washington Post Book World. The rest of it as at least as good. I kept reading random phrases aloud to my husband while he was trying to watch a football game (and also show our kid Christmas music videos on his laptop. So clearly, this was worth taking my life, or at least my domestic tranquility, in my hands.

And then we watched the hamster on the piano eating popcorn. And life got even better, if that were possible.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Music from Noggin helps me feel less crazy. Slightly.

Afraid Parade! from Kelsey Friday on Vimeo.

Side note: I went to Youtube (yeah, always trouble, I know) to see if anyone has posted this video. No one had, but one of the alternate suggestions for a search - along with "afraid of Americans" (a Bowie song) and "Soft Parade" (of course) was:

afraid of pickles.

Which led to various clips from the Maury Povich show featuring a young woman who was (and apparently continues to be) afraid of pickles.

I think that may be the name for my all-girl band.

Friday, December 05, 2008

So what you're telling me is: life on board ship was actually prettty grim

Me: Hey, little dude, time for a nap. Let's check that diaper.

Ian: NO! I am a PIRATE! Pirates don't get their diapers checked by anyone!

Me: Oh yeah? Really? So you just sit around in your poop all day?


Thursday, December 04, 2008

I feel like a new woman.

Mostly. The meds are doing a fabulous job. I feel almost like myself again. OF COURSE the is plenty for me to be jumpy about, like our ridiculously high electric bill and the rolling snowball of Advent and the Terrible, Terrible, Terrible About-to-be-Threes.

And of course, David is still dead, and please let me remind us all that THIS IS ALL HIS FAULT, all this crazy with the heart palpatations and the headaches and the not walking to from the kitchen to the bathroom without the phone reciever so I can call 911 in case I have a heart attack while washing my hands.

David, I wish you were here.

I would only punch you once, I swear.

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Beans in the crockpot. (edited a little since the first publication)

The night before, rinse a pound bag of dried beans - I used Goya 16-Bean Soup Mix - and soak in cold water overnight in the fridge.

In the morning, drain and rinse one more time.

Put these in the crockpot with a couple of green peppers, a couple ribs of celery, and one large onion, chopped into large pieces. Add one can of stewed tomatoes (with liquid.) Add one cup vegetable broth, and a bunch - say, a tablespoon, unless your hand slips and you put in, like, a huge handful by accident - of Cajun seasoning.

Here's the deal with the crockpot: it's magic. I seem to be unable to screw up dishes in the our crockpot, which is at least as old as I am, and belonged to Eric's mother.

I started the pot on high before breakfast, and covered it and switched it to medium before leaving the house. But you could probably start it on medium and leave it there all day; you might even be able to leave it on low all day. I do not actually know how long these take to cook - certainly they would be done in less than 10 hours...maybe 6 hours on medium-high? Guessing.

Eric checked the beans around one, and threw some more liquid in it - another cup or so of vegetable broth. (If you do not have a helpful spousal equivalent at home for the cooking process, start with more broth, or broth cut with cold water, when you put the dish together in the morning.)

When I came home at 7:30, the beans had been cooking for more than 10 hours. They weren't burned at all. The tomatoes and celery had disintegrated; the peppers and onion were delicious, as were the beans and the thick, savory liquid. I threw in some frozen corn and peas to brighten it up and add a little crunch, and heated those through. You should adjust the seasoning, now (unless your hand slipped and you dumped a whole ton of Cajun seasoning in. If that happened, it's too late, and it is what it is.)

Vegan, fat free, high protien, a little salty, very satisfying. Makes 6-8 servings, maybe more with rice. Yay, beans.

Much Better

Today was much better.

I had thought that take an emergency mental health day, but it was not to be. I remembered (at 11 or so Monday night) that I had promised a design job for Wednesday, and Tuesday would be my only chance to work on it. So I slunk in a little late, closed myself up in the Art Cave, and got it done. I usually love interruptions - sharing my office suits me very well - but I was really happy to have very few today.

I went to the doctor this afternoon, and just knowing that I was going to be seen helped ease teh crazy a little. Indeed, I did get the Uninsured Hypochondriac Package, and thank God for that.

And thank God for Dr. K, who listened to my heart and lungs, looked at my blood, listened to The Great Litany of Symptoms.

I got some meds, but mostly I got assured, in a very serious manner, that I am going to be okay. It seems to be working. I feel a little more like myself.

PLUS the beans in the crockpot didn't burn! They came out really good! I'll post the recipe here.

Monday, December 01, 2008

This was not a good day. I mean, as they say, the Lord woke me up this morning, so it's a good day...but that was pretty much all downhill from there.

spend about an hour trying to get our general practicioners office to answer their phone. Fine, I will take my sorry-ass, poverty-stricken, uninsured hypochondriac business elsewhere. That'll show 'em.
But where?

I raced out of the house on multiple missions, trying to get the shirts to the cleaners, the kid out of the house, the deposit to the bank, and back in time to get my car to the shop so they could tell me why the check engine light is on.

But, aha, one tire is completely flat.

great, unstrap the kid, move the shirts and etcs over to Eric's car. Make him come outside to bring me the key. Which I instantly lose, and spend a good 15 min looking for, crawling under the car, feeling through piles of leaves, whatever.

It was in Eric's pocket. Hey, at least his car's clean now.

The kid and I go on missions, Eric stays home and waits for the auto club guy, who changes my tire. Hey, at least my trunk's clean now. Unfortunately, my back seat is full.

Missions accomplished; I come home and make a pile of pancakes, which everyone eats. That was nice.

we all go and drop off my car; Ian falls asleep in the car, and we drive around for a while and then stop for burgers. They were pretty good.

Husband calls the shop, and finds out that I need 4 new tires, an oil change and a freaking CATALYTIC CONVERTER which costs AS MUCH AS A WHOLE CAR USED TO.

This is the point at which I begin to despair.

As we drive, we construct a rationale for putting off the catalytic converter replacement, and worry ourselves into a lather wondering about the price of special-order low-resistance tires.

blah blah blah, we're at the dealership for more than an hour for this and that. I am somehow able to keep from crying during this time.

We come home. Kid eats a hot dog and watched Charlie Brown Christmas on dvd. I cry surprisingly little.

I find a general practicioner in the Yellow Pages. I call his office, and the doctor himself answers the phone, and LISTENS TO ME TALK ABOUT MY SYMPTOMS. And tells me he will see me tomorrow. And what to do in the meantime. I will have to ask to him about his Uninsured Hypochondriac discount program.

While husband puts kid to bed, I go to the grocery store. Things are bruisingly expensive, and yet it cheers me up some - it is hard for me to feel despair in the grocery store. (Interestingly, I once experienced what I believe was a psychotic break in a grocery store - the Giant on Rolling Road in Baltimore. So I guess it's not actually impossible.)

I come home, put some beans to soak, and watch The Grinch, which is colored so brilliantly that I have to think it's been digitally remastered since last year.

I am still sad, still worried about a lot of things (and unable to discern what's a real, serious thing that I should be taking care of and what's just bad brain chemicals triggered by grief.) Still wayyyy tooo short-tempered with my kid. Still thinking of things that could go better at work.

I am ready for something different.

Sunday, November 30, 2008

I survived Advent One.

I am watching "Hobbits Gazing at Each Other with Strong, Unspoken Feelings."

I do believe that I cried my way through this entire film in the theatre. I cried because the spider was scary, when Gollum embodied the human condition, when Sam did pretty much anything.

It is an awful lot of Eijah Wood in one sitting, though.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

What I am learning on the food network tonight:

Duff met Mary Alice when he was working a ridiculous campus job at UMBC. He was a facilities guy, and he was called upon to fish her pearls out of the dorm drain.

Duff plays bass! Like Rodney! I find this facsinating. Could this be a Baltimore thing, this tattooed bass guys making superior desserts? Rockers making the world a better place through cookies? (Neither is from Baltimore originally. Perhaps it's just an unusually hospitable place for cheery weirdos to make a life from scratch.)

I will never be a chef. (I didn't learn this on the Food Network tonight - I learned it reading an article in the Post years ago. When a woman wrote about how she was always the one who had to carry the 50 lb bags of flour up the first escape.) It is entirely too much work. And Bill Buford's book totally confirms it. As does Ratitouille.

I will never be a chef, but I might be Duff Goldman for Halloween sometime.

Friday, November 28, 2008

so instead, let's admire the Keith Haring balloon

Hell for Hypochondriacs:

Oh my dear Lord. The other night, I was complaining about this and that, and my darling husband was kind enough to look up some things on this site.


yesterday's story

I woke up Ian. We were chatting - him standing up in the crib, me puttering around his room a little.

Ian: (gasps) What was THAT sound?
me: I think it was one of the cats, sneezing. It sounded like the cat exploded, didn't it?
Ian: OH. (long pause.) .....should we go check?

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

we're watching the World Magic Awards on cable. All the performers on the bill appear to be winners of The Consistency Award, since every single one of them is doing the same material, WITH THE SAME JOKES, wearing the same costumes, that they have been doing on TV specials for as long as we have been watching magic on TV specials.

It's gruesome.

Not to mention the vaguely sheepish "celebrities" - people from reality shows, mostly - who are tasked with introducing the acts. Dougie's doing a good job as emcee - he's actually a magician, did you know that? He's pretty good, I hear. He's been doing mostly gags on this show, but I read that he does quite a respectable close-up set.

The best thing about this show in Hans Klok's sparkly pants.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Squash me

< carnival squash

butternut squash>

I used one of each to make tonight's dinner, a pasta dish vaguely modeled on this Mario Batali recipe. Very good, even though I had rather a free hand with the crushed red pepper and it came out spicier than I'd like.

I made it with whole wheat pasta, and a perfect combination of texture. Plus, this would make a terrific vegan dish as well - I adore cheese, but this would be just fine without it.

This may be the healthiest thing I have ever cooked.

Monday, November 24, 2008

goofball stories illustrated

I don't know if you read this tale of woe on my other blog, The Mulligan Years.

but someone did! I found this stuck on my monitor this morning: the anonymous artist (I have my suspicions...) even captured our matching pink cheeks!
What a wonderful thing for someone to do for me. ( look! he's even wearing a little homemade cardigan... wow.)

Also, thanks for the comments. I really appreciate it.

Ian the Terrible was only really awful for about half the day, so that was a huge step forward. Also, husband has been going out of his way to make sure that I have time to do things like go for walks and complete a sentence and stuff like that. So that has helped a lot. I'm not, you know, walkin' on sunshine or anything, but I seem to be handling things a little better than yesterday.

So thanks for my cartoon, Anonymous! I really love it.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

It's Sunday. I got nothin'.

the sadness, the lack of sleep, the crazy hypochondria (which can be kicked into clinically insane overdrive by a friend having a heart attack, believe me) the terrible twos and ADVENT all got together and mugged me. I am hurting.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Okay, first of all, I would like to protest that THAT LAST POST about Scrooge and Love Actually etc etc was definately created after midnight. That was today's post, people. This is just wrong.

Second, have I mentioned my intense dislike for this woman?

Oh my, I do not like her at all.

I am not in the habit of hating random people on television - I figure that I am not the target market for most shows, and so, when a professional presenter is in some way distasteful, I barely notice. Even on shows I love, I can overlook a great deal - for example, the presence of Nina Garcia (Stacie knows why I am snickering.) But this tells me that she has authored 13 cookbooks! That she went to the Le Cordon Bleu!

All I know is, I just saw her make a drink that involved hot apple cider, bourbon, mulling spices and... COOL WHIP.

Seriously? Come on, Food Network - Seriously?! Really, seriously?

(I want to say that I'm not a snob, at least not a very convincing one. I have enjoyed my share of Cool Whip through the years. But seriously - even if you care nothing about weird fats, or about flavor - non-dairy whipped topping in a hot clear liquid is a bad idea. )

Friday, November 21, 2008

I'm watching a terrible movie that I love - Love Actually. This actually dovetails nicely with today's household theme, Holiday Sentimentality.

Basically, it snowed for a second, and we all went over the edge.

Eric called me from the supermarket - he was delerious, buying bread cubes and cranberry sauce. We made a chicken, though, rather than a turkey. This was our faux thanksgiving, as we are going over the river etc etc for the buffet at the officer's club, as we do every year, an excellent way to do the holiday together.

But tonight we had nuclear family mini-Thanksgiving: roast chicken, apple-raisin stuffing, le suer canned peas, yummy cranberry sauce (not homemade, sadly - Eric makes this BRILLIANT fresh cranberry-orange sauce every year for Christmas. I think the recipe was in Parade Magazine, like 10 years ago. Eric has it memorized. I think we have to postage-stamp-sized clipping pinned to our kitchen bulletin board. In fact, let me see of I can find it on the web.)

Oh! Here it is! You can see why it fits on such a small clipping. I can't remember whether he puts anything else in it (grated ginger, maybe?) Anyway, it's great, plus it's easy. And fast.

Hey! Songbird should make that!

We followed up mini-Thanksgiving with a mini-viewing of a Christmas movie - the kid doesn't have the patience for a whole movie, so we just watched a few musical numbers from Scrooge before bed. Will I ever not cry at this story? At "I haven't missed it?" No kidding - I cry at the Bill Murray sarcastic version.

This week has been pretty rough, frankly. One might even say sucktastic. I was doing pretty well last week, spending time planning a funeral for my friend David, thinking about what to say, what to wear, running out to buy shoes (didn't think I should officiate my first funeral in Doc Martens). This week, though, there has been little to distract me from thinking about...things. (Little besides my husband, my pre-schooler, my congregation, looming freaking ADVENT ALREADY, not to mention Christmas gifts.)

So maybe a little stuffing, and a little terrible Albert Finney dancing, was just what I needed.

Kitchen Equipment Advice

Songbird over at RevGal is freaking out about Thanksgiving (with pretty good reason, I must add), and so she's doing a survey. About kitchen equipment.

Honey, you've come to the right place.

1) Do you have a food processor? Can you recommend it? Which is to say, do you actually use it? I have 2 - both Cuisineart brand.

My first was a little tiny one, just one chopping blade and one speed (though it does go both directions.) I got that one to make baby food, for which it was completely successful, and I do use it for little things occasionally - not more than once a week.

And then I have the big one - my brother found me a used one in total mint condition, all the blades. I use it at least twice a week, and sometimes a lot more, chopping vegetables, grating cheese, making bread crumbs, crushing ice.

I use them both enough to keep them both out on the counter all the time.

And this is a pretty good time of year to buy one, incidentally - lots of competition. If one had tons of time, I would say try Craigslist or your congregation, since lots of people have bought them and never use them and will, like, GIVE them to you. But time is short for Songbird.

2) And if so, do you use the fancy things on it? I use all the blades, some more than others. But I found it pretty much impossible to store the blade assemblies safely UNTIL I HAD THIS BRILLIANT IDEA:

magnetic knife bar
mounted vertically on the wall, back in the corner where the kid can't reach them
it really works.

3) Do you use a standing mixer? Or one of the hand-held varieties?

I have that very one, except in white. We call it The Riding Mixer. I never baked until I had it. I LOVE it. I would say I use it 3 to 5 times a month, lots more this time of year.

4) How about a blender? Do you have one? Use it much?
I have one (also found by my brother, King of the Refurbished Appliance) but I have never used it.

5) Finally, what old-fashioned, non-electric kitchen tool do you enjoy using the most? I adore my Lodge cast-iron pans, my heatproof silicone spatulas, and my flexible 'brownie spatula'. Oh! And my bench knife. But I think the most convenient kitchen tool is my instant-read thermometers (I have 2) that I use nearly every day. YOU NEED one of these for Thanksgiving, I think, more than other specialized kitchen thing.

I got all this stuff (not the cast iron, but all the gadgets I mentioned above,) from the King Arthur catalog, but nothing on the website now looks like the ones I have.

Bonus: Is there a kitchen appliance or utensil you ONLY use at Thanksgiving or some other holiday? If so, what is it?
Eric's family passed on their electric bunwarmer. We use it for biscuits on Christmas. Exclusively.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

I sometime worry that I embarrass my church. You know, by being ME.

But I guess it could be worse.

Honestly, you barely have to read it. Just look across the bottom of your screen as you wait for it to load - 'swinging-biker-vicar'.

Man, too bad this blog already has a name.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

something beautiful

these are headpins, a supply for making jewelry, from the mermaidstone shop on Etsy. Isn't that a beautiful picture?

also applies to new versions of itunes

song chart memes
more via jean, jean, dancing machine.

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

please take me here immediately

edited to add: Jeannette from Snackreligious tells me that "It is no longer a bakery", just a comics store.

I'm crushed.

NOT that "just a comics store' is anything to sneeze at. It's just that I have never imagined a business that didn't include a bakery.. at least a cafe. Bookstore/bakery. bed+breakfast/bakery. church/bakery (seriously.) (Church of the Savior has a lunch counter in downtown DC. With a bookstore!)

You should cook this.

Fresh out of the oven:Cornmeal Crunch from 101 Cookbooks.

It's lovely - I just burned my mouth from over-enthusiasm. It's sort of a delicious savory custard with a crisy edge. I'm having it with some gigantic sliced mushrooms, which I sauteed in the same pan that I had used to carmelize the onions. So they're super-delicious, on their own, plus they're salty, so they make a nice counterpoint to the creamy/cheesyness.

I'll have most of it left, as Eric has taken the little darling to eat and play at the Chik-Fil-A, which they should rename You Can Get Really Good Milkshakes In Our Drive-Through. I am planning to feed it to the New Guy tomorrow at lunch...

Except our only device for heating it up is the microwave. Will this even be edible after being nuked?

Edited to add: This is a total winner. Survives reheating perfectly.

Monday, November 17, 2008

Leftover birthday cake! It's What's for Dinner!

Me: What should we have for dinner?
Ian (thinks for a moment..) Starbursts?
Me: How about some quesadilla?

so we compromised.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

This will cheer you up.

we had a great weekend up in Pennsylvania; David had a whole lot of friends, who came from all over to meet his family and send him off properly. Everyone was just wonderful, and it was all a dip in an ocean of answered prayer.


as we were TRYING to keep our darling child out of trouble this morning, we were poking around on You Tube. and I saw this.

And there is not one single thing about this that I did not enjoy.

Friday, November 14, 2008

Here is what it means to travel with a toddler - sitting on the edge of a hotel room bathtub, reading a library book, drinking ice water. Across the pitch-black room, husband visible in the fishtank glow of the computer. We're separated by a freshly-disinfected Pack-and-Play and a child who eventually got too exhausted to whine anymore.

And then we traded.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

No NaBloPoMo prizes for me - I missed yesterday.

Thanks for all your warm thoughts. For those that asked, David is David T. Crowe, someone who was my friend from the start of elementary school until his death last week. He was my best friend through childhood and adolescence. It was a rare day that I didn't spend a few hours with him, from the age of about 8 until about 20.

He was the funniest person I have ever known.
And that, my friends, is saying something.
He was funny in the third grade, funny in college, funny in off-broadway shows; I would imagine he cracked a joke on his last phone call on Friday. He didn't really try; really, he couldn't help himself. He just saw the humor in things.

He did not have a mean bone - a mean molocule - in his being.

His sweetheart said something in an email that I had never thought about, but it is 100% true: not everyone likes me, not everyone likes you, but everyone loved David. Of course people got mad at him occasionally, but truly - no one could keep themselves from liking him.

We used to lie and tell people we were brother and sister. If they bought that, we would tell them we were twins.

I used to steal his shoes and wear them.

I can remember a lot of things about him - things he wore, jokes we made, things we did together - but it's almost as if I can't get a clear mental picture of him, himself. Can't pin him down. He seems blurry. I guess he was always standing so close.

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Monday, November 10, 2008

This will come in handy later.

I was balancing the laptop on the arm of the comfy chair, looking up interfaith stuff on the web, and Ian was doing his twirly dance between my feet. Suddenly my screen dimmed.

Me: Ian, did you unplug mommy?
Ian: I didn't unplug you, Mommy.
Me, tracing the wire: You did! You unplugged me by accident, see? You knocked this plug out of the hole.
Ian: Ooops. Sorry, Mommy.
Me: It's okay, but you must remember never to unplug Mommy and Daddy. That'll be important.

I actually got him to raise his right hand and promise.
"I promise never to unplug Mommy and Daddy."

That's legally binding, right?

In fairness, “Repo,” which opened Friday, adheres to several conventions of the operatic form: a sung libretto instead of spoken dialogue; a chorus, of sorts, commenting on its themes of love, loyalty and class warfare; even a denouement that takes place in an opera-within-an-opera.

It also happens to be about a doctor employed by a futuristic biotechnology company to repossess bodily organs from still-living customers who haven’t paid their bills.

“People are tired of seeing the same thing over and over again,” Mr. Bousman said. “Here’s a movie that kind of defies description of what you can compare it to.”

Can't srgue with that. Read this.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

this would never have occurred to me.

Home Bleep Home

Stranger Photos Have Happened

I tied a disposable camera to a bench with a sign that read:

Good afternoon,
I attached this camera to the ben
ch so you could take pictures. Seriously. So have fun. I'll be back later this evening to pick it up.
Love, Jay / The Plug

When I retrieved the camera that night, I was happy to find that the entire roll of film had been shot.

See the photos at:

Saturday, November 08, 2008

Today's recipe: Cranberry Apple Crisp

preheat the oven to 350 and grease a glass baking pan (9x13).

cut up about 2.5 pounds of apples (we used little tiny galas that you buy in a red mesh bag.)The recipe said to peel them, but screw that. spread the pieces in the baking pan.

squirt with lemon juice. (If you have actual lemons, you can zest one and add that. I had a plastic squeezy lemon. It was fine.)

sprinkle frozen cranberries (less than a cup) over the apples. Sprinkle with sugar (like a tablespoonful.)

In a bowl, mix some flour (I had a little less than a cup), some brown sugar (looked like more than a cup), and some salt. When that didn't look like enough stuff, a threw in a couple handfuls of oats.

Then take a stick of butter, cold, and mix it in with your fingers until you get that pebbley effect.
Your toddler can help, but only after he washes his hands for about 19 minutes.

Make sure he rinses.

spread the crumbles over the fruit, and pop it in the oven, uncovered, for 50 minutes.
When it's done, the crumbles will be brown, the corners will be juicy and bubbley, and the apples will pierce easily with a fork.

edited to add some ridiculous pictures

Friday, November 07, 2008

couldn't resist

Stacie recommends Cake Wrecks.

Ian is Art

we went to the BMA today, where there's an exhibit you should see - except you don't see it, exactly, you sit in it and carry it around and climb on it (and leave muddy footprints on it) and, if you happen to be there when Ian is there, you HEAR it.

We very much enjoyed this installation - Franz West's The Ego and the Id, an enormous looping steel thing reminiscent of doodles, cursive writing, gum stuck under tables, and djembes. It's also mounted on a plywood platform, hollow underneath, which encouraged Ian to bring the noise, bring the funk in a big way, along with the climbing and the drumming and the whatnot it entailed.

There was lots more art to see, but we contented ourselves with a few 18th c paintings with animals in them, and AT LEAST AN HOUR OF TORTURE IN THE MUSEUM SHOP, which my child much prefers to actual art, since you can look at art all day long and not come home with any plastic animals at all! CAN YOU IMAGINE! THE INJUSTICE!

(we got out with 3 plastic dragons.) (yes, because I caved.)

In the interest of fairness, I want to point out that I, too, LOVE a museum shop, and sometimes find them more interesting than the art on display for the same reason - you can get something and take it home, have a relationship with it. There were at least 5 or 6 things I would love to have bought for myself, were we feeling flush and I had no one but my selfish self to spend money on.

Anyway, this art is more fun than a playground. We're going to go back a million times before this exhibit ends.

I've posted a bunch more BMA pics on my Flickr page.

Thursday, November 06, 2008

this is for my dude in ohio.
i don't look all that happy, but i remind you once again - we won.
you know how, when you have a task coming due, and you precieve it as daunting, you can think of one million other things to do that will just take a second? And so you can keep putting off starting the big-looking task almost literally indefinately?

don't do that. Leap in. Sin boldly. It's almost never as big as you think, once you get up close to it.

I wrote one hard email today, and am about to write another. And my magical husband did the clerical task that he always puts off.

And then I am going to shut down the computer, and meet him at a restaurant, and eat a steak.
A small one.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

5 min chocolat cake: The results


It's not exactly like cake, but not totally different, either - maybe more like plum pudding in texture (sproingy around the outside, very moist inside where the melted chocolate is.) The body of the cake itself was moist and eggy but not very flavorful and not noticeably chocolate-y, despite the cocoa. I wonder if some aggressive spicing, like with cinnamon/allspice, might make that better.

I HATE it when baked goods are warmed in the microwave, because when they cool, they can become so leathery as to be inedible. I was afraid that this would be the downfall of this recipe, but it's not - I guess because it had never been baked to begin with - the texture doesn't change much as it cools, which is good.

I couldn't eat the whole serving. About a third of one, with a good glob of lightly-sweetened whipped cream, could be a very passable dessert. And certainly a good basis for experiments.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

church bird, against all odds, casts her ballot.

I had an unusual and inspiring election day experience.

A good friend of mine finds herself in the hospital, suffering from mysterious, dangerous circulatory weirdness, and needing transfusions and stacks of tests. She was determined to vote, and her son put a whole lot of miles on their car making sure that she could.

I voted, of course; the normal way, in a middle school cafeteria on a plastic-card-type machine. And I must say I felt very proud of my husband and the other poll workers. They work an endless day - he's still there! At 9:53! Since 5:30 this morning! and greet, instruct, and check on every single person who comes to vote. And were charming and friendly (and hopped up on sugar).

But I dropped by my friend's hospital room in the afternoon, and I happened to be there as she filled out her paper ballot. I even took pictures - and, in fact, I posted a few on the NY Times Polling Place Photo Project page. Which is pretty f-in' cool, because it makes it look exactly like they published my photo in the New York Times. (Yes, please, I would like that very much.)

Monday, November 03, 2008

5 minute chocolate cake: the results


It's not exactly like cake, but not totally different, either - maybe more like plum pudding in texture (sproingy around the outside, very moist inside where the melted chocolate is.) The body of the cake itself was moist and eggy but not very flavorful and not noticeably chocolate-y, despite the cocoa. I wonder if some aggressive spicing, like with cinnamon/allspice, might make that better.

I HATE it when baked goods are warmed in the microwave, because when they cool, they can become so leathery as to be inedible. I was afraid that this would be the downfall of this recipe, but it's not - I guess because it had never been baked to begin with - the texture doesn't change much as it cools, which is good.

I couldn't eat the whole serving. About a third of one, with a good glob of lightly-sweetened whipped cream, could be a very passable dessert. And certainly a good basis for experiments.

The World's Most Dangerous Recipe

So I had followed some link from some knitalong on Ravelry, and ended up stumbling on this.

I am not entirely sure it's technically cake, since it isn't baked, and the egg is the only leavening.

Right, like I'd care. About the technicalities.

Go make one right now, as I am. Tell me how yours came out. I'll have a full report tomorrow.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Slain by a fierce wild beast

Blessings on the Feast of All Saints!

After you make fun of me because this is my favorite hymn, enjoy my answers to the random but fun Rev Gals Friday Five

1) Your work day is done and the brain is fried, what do you do?
Cook! It's not unusual for me to start contemplating dinner over lunch. (This is a new development - in past years, I disapproved of people who seemed to think about food all day long. My brother would occasionally call in the middle of the day and ask what we were having for dinner, and I would practically yell at him.
Now that cooking is fun, it's not unusual for me to be thinking about groceries, or some kitchen procedure, as the day winds down.

2) Your work week is done and the brain is fried (for some Friday, others Sunday afternoon), what do you do?
Eat! It's kind of embarrassing, when you put it that way, but there's nothing like a big leasurely lunch on a Sunday afternoon. My days start somewhat early (I'm, among other things, the tech director) and by the time we lock up, I'm ready to get my money's worth (and then some) at the Indian Buffet.
And then nap.
Then recreation blog following.

3) Like most of us, I often keep myself busy even while programs are on the tv. I stop to watch The Office and 30 Rock on Thursday nights. Do you have 'stop everything' tv programming or books or events or projects that are totally 'for you' moments?
Project Runway. A new issue of Vogue (though I am not as devout about this as I used to be). I also like to listen to The Splendid Table, but I only do that if I can manage to be driving somewhere between 2-3 on Saturdays. Pretty much everything else - my weekly New Yorker, library books, knitting - gets fitted in around pastor/mom/wife duties. And it's astonishing that I fit in as much as I do!

4) When was the last time you laughed, really laughed? What was so funny?
Every day! The people I work with, and the man I married, are several of the funniest people on earth. And then I gave birth to another one. Even when it's hard being married, being the mom of a 2-year-old, doing this God business, we laugh a lot. Also astonishing.

5) What is a fairly common item that some people are willing to go cheap on, but you are not.
Um, I'm pretty cheap, actually. Not yarn or fabric, that's for sure. Not even groceries - though I'm picky, I pride myself on my clever bargain hunting that turns into delicious, wholesome meals.
Maybe magazines and newspapers. I have no (well, few) qualms about laying out the bucks for an out-of-town paper or a gorgeous glossy, because it can still seem like I'm getting a lot for my money.

Saturday, November 01, 2008

intellegent design

"How could you do it? How could you cave like that?" asked the woman in the cutting line. She had a point, of course.

She meant how could I possibly say yes when my son, who had until Friday morning planned to be a pirate for Halloween, confidently announced at lunch that he was going out as a triceritops.

"well, because he's two." I thought for a long moment.

"And, actually, because I'm a huge show-off, and I want to prove I can do it. Like winning some ludicrous challenge on Project Runway."

And, I thought later, because he had said to me a few days ago, "Mommy! You can fix anything!"

I was actually a little disappointed in 'pirate', easily assembled from his own clothes and some fabric scraps I already had. Perhaps a stuffed sword, I thought, with a gold lame scimitar blade...

I was not the only person buying costume fabric and boning at 4pm on Halloween, incidentally. Not by a long shot.

What we ended up with: a mottled green fleece hooded pullover, with 3 horns on the forehead, a curvy stuffed tail, and deep green felt ridges down the back. (I never got around to attaching the standup frill, which was made of fleece and stiffened with spines made of that poly foam sheet stuff they have now.) He could wear it with his camo pants or with some cartoon dino pajama bottoms I just picked up at Target.

He wouldn't even put it on, a surprise to PRECISELY NO ONE I'm sure. Not even me, really. It was just all too much - it didn't scare him, exactly, just seemed to overwhelm him. I cut the hood off and tried it as a hat - no chance.

He wore his pajamas to trick-or-treat.

I cut off the tail, and pinned it to the hem of my sweatshirt.

Still, it must be said - I did win the challenge, create a cute and recognizable triceratops for a toddler in 2 hours, including shopping.

Do I have immunity for next Halloween?

Saturday, October 18, 2008

Dessert meme

I'm not entirely comfortable with the outcome of this....

1) Copy this list into your site, including the instructions!
2) Bold all of the sweets you've eaten--or make them a different type color.
3) Cross out any of them that you'd never ever eat.
4) Consider anything that is not bold or crossed out your "To Do" List.
5) Optional: Post a comment here linking to your results--or just post a comment letting us know how many you've tried, or what you're going to try next!

I've also added a + for each thing I have baked (cooked, whatever...)

1. Red Velvet Cake
2. Princess Torte
3. Whoopie Pie
4. Apple Pie either topped or baked with sharp cheddar +
5. Beignet
6. Baklava
7. Black and white cookie
8. Seven Layer Bar (also known as the Magic Bar or Hello Dolly bars) +
9. Fried Fruit pie (sometimes called hand pies)
10. Kringle
11. Just-fried (still hot) doughnut
12. Scone with clotted cream
13. Betty, Grunt, Slump, Buckle or Pandowdy +
14. Halvah
15. Macarons +
16. Banana pudding with nilla wafers
17. Bubble tea (with tapioca "pearls")
18. Dixie Cup
19. Rice Krispie treats +
20. Alfajores
21. Blondies +
22. Croquembouche
23. Girl Scout cookies
24. Moon cake
25. Candy Apple
26. Baked Alaska
27. Brooklyn Egg Cream
28. Nanaimo bar
29. Baba au rhum
30. King Cake
31. Sachertorte
32. Pavlova
33. Tres Leches Cake
34. Trifle
35. Shoofly Pie
36. Key Lime Pie (made with real key lime)
37. Panna Cotta
38. New York Cheesecake +
39. Napoleon / mille-fueille
40. Russian Tea Cake / Mexican Wedding Cake
41. Anzac biscuits
42. Pizzelle
43. Kolache
44. Buckeyes
45. Malasadas
46. Moon Pie
47. Dutch baby
48. Boston Cream Pie
49. Homemade chocolate chip cookies +
50. Pralines +
51. Gooey butter cake
52. Rusks
53. Daifuku
54. Green tea cake or cookies
55. Cupcakes from a cupcake shop
56. Crème brûlée +
57. Some sort of deep fried fair food (twinkie, candy bar, cupcake)
58. Yellow cake with chocolate frosting +
59. Jelly Roll
60. Pop Tarts
61. Charlotte Russe
62. An "upside down" dessert (Pineapple upside down cake or Tarte Tatin) +
63. Hummingbird Cake
64. Jell-O from a mold
65. Black forest cake
66. Mock Apple Pie (Ritz Cracker Pie)
67. Kulfi
68. Linzer torte
69. Churro
70. Stollen
71. Angel Food Cake
72. Mincemeat pie
73. Concha
74. Opera Cake
75. Sfogliatelle / Lobster tail
76. Pain au chocolat
77. A piece of Gingerbread House
78. Cassata
79. Cannoli
80. Rainbow cookies
81. Religieuse
82. Petits fours
83. Chocolate Souffle
84. Bienenstich (Bee Sting Cake)
85. Rugelach
86. Hamenstashen
87. Homemade marshmallows
88. Rigo Janci
89. Pie or cake made with candy bar flavors (Snickers pie, Reeses pie, etc)
90. Divinity
91. Coke or Cola cake
92. Gateau Basque
93. S'mores +
94. Figgy Pudding
95. Bananas foster or other flaming dessert
96. Joe Froggers
97. Sables
98. Millionaire's Shortbread
99. Animal crackers
100. Basbousa

Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Today's cooking challenge:
I wanted to create something with the beets and sweet potatoes, because I thought it would be tasty and seasonal and also really, really spectacular-looking. I was thinking of something that interleaved slices of beet and potato - that would look great, right? And they would taste right together - kind of earthy? (I had this thought originally when I was pulling some roasted beets out of the oven, and of course they smell like delicious, juicy dirt. Which sweet potatoes kind of do to, right? Well, to me they do.

Anyway, I think I will do something like this, which I have made before to delicious results and for which I have all the vegetables, even yellow peppers already sliced! Go me! Maybe I'll take a picture.

EDITED TO ADD: Well, okay, no picture, and no new recipe. I "created" something with beets and sweet potatoes only to the extent that I added beets to a sweet potato recipe, and it was sufficiently foolproof to survive. Presenting it composed rather than tossed didn't add much pizazz either. Knife skills might have made a difference...anyway, tasted fine, looked fine, healthy, fine....I just wonder what would have really made it sing.

Sunday, October 12, 2008

And then they all turned into fish and swam away.*

I just had a completely surreal experience.

As I mentioned, I've had a cold for a couple of days; last night, it migrated from head to chest. This, of course, FEELS like a huge relief, being so much more pleasant less vile than dizziness, drippy nose, itching on the insides of one's eyeballs. But it does mean I actually have to work on getting better. Chest colds, for me, do not always go away by themselves.

So I left work early and came home to sleep. Husband and son came home a while later - the timeline is rather fuzzy for this whole day - and darling Ian stood by my bedside, stroking my cheek gently and saying "Momma? Are you not feeling so well?" He and his friend Heather had made me a get-well card, tracing some plastic bugs with markers on a shirt cardboard. "We Hope Your Bug Goes Away."

(Hahaha! Bite that, Hallmark.)

So moved was I with tender affection (and so addled from a low-grade fever) that, when Husband tried to remove Child from my bedside, I must have stopped him. "Oh, no, honey," I must have said," I'll take him for a while. You go relax."

And then I fell asleep.

And then I woke up - was it 3 minutes later? A half-hour? Longer? I truly have no idea - I kind of blacked out.

And you know how occasionally, when you fall asleep in the daytime, you wake up not knowing...anything? What day it is, or what part of the day, or why you're in this room, or if you're supposed to be somewhere? All I know is, I woke up, tangled in dampish covers, lying on my side, with a child hopping back and forth over me. I didn't recognize him.

I could not imagine how I had fallen asleep in my calm, ordered life and woken up in someone else's, being tortured by someone else's preschooler.

Plus, he was talking, telling me a story of some sort, in a conversational tone that indicated that we'd been doing this for a while already.

I moaned.

He lay down on his side, facing me, and gazed into my eyes. Oh, right, I thought. Ian. He's mine. That's right.

"Aw, momma," he sighed. "You are not feeling very well today. You are as sick as a penguin." **

"Daddy.." I bleated pathetically. Ian took over summoning Husband, who was mortified. Turns out that he had stepped downstairs for just a second, intending to come right back and collect the kid, but sat down and...blacked out.

*This is the way all my dreams used to end.
**On an episode of Go, Diego, Go!, a show of which I mildly disapprove,[1] Alicia needed a rescue boat to come out to an iceflow and get some sick penguins. The penguins indicted they were sick by giving the tiniest, more ridiculously fakey penguin coughs imaginable. A delicate, milquetoasty penguin cough. I found this to be freakin' hysterical, and so occasionally we daintily cover our mouths with our wings and make a tasteful little penguin cough.

[1] It's not that I mind Diego that much. I just think he's horning in on Dora's gig. Respect, people. (Besides, it's not just the pengion cough - I think all the amateurish fake animal noises are ridiculous.)

Saturday, October 11, 2008

my most recent knitting project

my next knitting project

Friday, October 10, 2008

1. I am the biggest baby on the earth. I have a head cold - A HEAD COLD!! - and I have been laying about whining non-stop for two full days.

2. My banana bread did a television appearance this morning.

Eric did a news segment on Channel 9. He's done a couple of these over the past year - they get a gang of financial experts together and have them field questions from a phone bank and a studio audience, and do a short interview with the anchors as well.

Eric brings along some baked goods to the TV station, to show appreciation for the crew. Okay, yes, and suck up - in a tasteful way, of course! - so that he'll get asked back. It has not appeared to have any effect at all on the frequency of bookings. He does a really good job - truly, he is in his element answering questions on the hoof.

BUT as we watched the last moments of the morning news show (well, when I say 'we', I must admit that Ian was not as interested as I was:

me: Oh look! Look at the that! Who's that on the TV?
me: Daddy's on TV. Isn't that exciting?
Ian: AAAAAAAAAAAAGHHHHHHHHHHH. I hate you. (1-second pause.) Hug me.

I looked up from my son's downy head to see a full-screen shot of my walnut banana bread. It's what the station ran under the closing theme music.

So I thought about posting my banana bread recipe, or maybe the details of the vitamin C pasta dish I cooked myself for lunch. But instead I will save both those (the pasta dish needs more work anyway.) And tell you the banana tip. The tip that makes last-minute, tv-worthy banana bread possible.

When the bananas in the basket on your kitchen table start to look a little soft - not, like, fuzzy or anything, but more brown than yellow and more soft than sturdy - you can freeze them. Don't cut them or peel them, just throw them into the freezer. The peels will immediately turn completely black. Don't let that scare you.

They won't get any riper in the freezer, but they'll be really soft and sticky when the warm up; perfect for baked goods or a smoothie, anything where they're smooshed up). When you're ready to use them, take some out and let them thaw on the counter. They'll grow a layer of frost over their black peels, which will make them look completely rotten. Ignore that. You can break them into pieces to help them warm up faster. Leave them alone for about 10 minutes, then slit the peel with a butter knife and slip if off with your thumbs.

That's it! You'll want to warm them up a little longer if you're mashing them by hand, but you can mash them mechanically while they're still frozen.

Monday, October 06, 2008

hey, day 2 of the post-prandial walk. I think tomorrow will have to be a post-lunch walk instead, as we are having a meeting at church about the farm project (I wanted to do a link to info about the farm project - and there's nothing about it on our website. A temporary condition, I'm sure.)

I do not actually care for walking.

I like it as a mode of transportation, but as a form of exercise, it's kind of a drag. But I do like observing, and talking to myself. (Silently. In my head.)

And I do love (in a non-creepy way, of course....), peeping in windows.

Okay, let's pause for a moment and see if we can imagine a non-creepy way to peep in windows.)
First of all, IT'S FROM THE SIDEWALK. It's not like I'm taking a ladder around with me, like Bluto at the sorority house.

Sunday, October 05, 2008

informal survey:

some of the things
that the people
who live withing a mile of my house
were doing
between 6 and 7
on a Sunday evening.

grilling (1)
working on cars (2)
letting the dogs out (6)
standing in the front yard in bathrobes (1)
tying a mattress and box spring to the top of a compact car (2 men, one bedding set)
leaning in car windows to flirt (2)
making music (1 boy, front porch, harmonica; 1 person, converted garage, drum kit)
placing halloween decorations (2)
transporting crying infant from car to house (1)
shouting at brother on playground (1)
hiding behind porch to jump out and scare big sister (1)

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Soup for a rainy night:

Edited to add: This recipe is a definite winner! I warmed up the carrot puree base at work, and stirred in the ginager juice, a glug of half-and-half, and it was terrific! The cardamom is a good addition - I might use more, but wrap it in cheesecloth or use a teaball, in the interest of avoiding the 'miscellaneous bug parts' garnish.

This is bubbling away right now. The lightning storm has mostly passed by, though there's still enough thunder to scare the kid - Daddy has taken him out of his room, and has bedded him down temporarily in ours, in a nest of pillows. I thought I would whip up some noodle soup for tomorrow's lunch, but was shocked to find that I had used up my fairly enormous stash of broth. We usually have gallons, practically.

But instead I am trying the carrot soup from Rachelle's recipe site. I don't have cream, but I have ginger and I boy, howdy, do I ever have carrots.

I also have celery. It's not called for in the recipe, but what the heck, I figured, and threw a couple stalks in. The smell of cooking celery instantly overpowered everything else, and filled up the entire house. I spent the next few minutes fishing diced celery out of the soup.

I dropped a couple cardamom pods in as well. I must remember to fish those out. They are not a pleasure to bite down on.

AND in the time it took me to write that, the carrots boiled dry. Just barely, though - I saved them from burning. Soon, I'll puree.


Okay, it's about half an hour later. I have pureed the carrots and their cooking water, and juiced the ginger (using a coffee filter and my tiny but mighty fist). The celery had no detramental effects, but the cardamom might have been a mistake - the pods open up in the simmering water and release their little spherical seeds. Which are dark green. And are too small to strain out of the puree. And look just a little like bugs. Or parts of bugs. Bug heads.

I sampled a little - it is tasty - and packaged it up for tomorrow. My plan is to cart the components to the office - soup base, ginger juice, my small pepper grinder, plus a carton of cream - and mix it together and heat it up for lunch with the boss.

So far, this recipe is a winner, since all it involves is boiling and Cuisine-art-ing. The ingredients are inexpensive, and my old knobby carrots have sprung to gorgeous, fresh blinding orange and a beautiful velvety texture. It's practically a metaphor.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

A new sermon

by me.

(Thanks to Russ Dulaney, who shoots, edits and posts our sermons practically every Sunday afternoon, when the rest of us are taking our naps.)

Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Instead of typing up my sermon notes so I can email them for review

I present the best blog post ever

warning: anatomical terms.
And some non-anatomical terms. And one vulgar diagram. On pink paper.

Also the phrase "like a rat up a pipe" which I cannot even type without snorfling.

Saturday, September 20, 2008

Love's a mystery, but I'd do it again.

Ah, the magic of the cameraphone.

So we went into Baltimore to see the Pretenders. It was the Attack of the Suburban Dads - all squinting at their wristbands, then shrugging and taking their places in the hall to hop, nod and point.

As did we. My urban hipster days are far, far behind me...though I must say, Chrissy Hynde does give one a different vision, an aspirational vision, of older womanhood. Seriously - I came out feeling really inspired about my future as an old, artistic, iconoclastic mom.

Anyway, I had not brought earplugs, and the Suburban Dad to whom I am married was getting a little foggy from being so close (we were, in fact, very very close) to the speakers. (I want to point out that, when I was going to shows, no one carried earplugs. Not even people who worked in the venues.) (Which is why we are a little deefer than the current generation of music-lovers will be in 20 years.) Anyway, we left, like hundreds of other Dads, before the Hold Steady came on. Here I had figured we'd be out til 2am. Ah well - saves on babysitting, I guess. Perhaps I can use the savings on a couple black t-shirts.

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

6 ideas

1. Sundays aren’t important
That is to say: Coming to church on Sunday does not make you a Christian or constitute a spiritual life. A Sunday isn’t our one chance to save souls or glorify God. It’s not the one place to learn about God, commune with the Holy Spirit, or be challenged. In many ways, as we spend time, sitting still, thinking about or listening to people talk about God, Sundays run the risk of being the least spiritually forming day of the week.

2.Sundays are important
They’re our front door, our chance to host strangers and long-lost friends. They can give us a chance to reflect, which most of us rarely get (or take) during the week. They tell us how to make direct contact with God. They provide a chance to consider new ideas about God and the world; the combination of time with God and new perspective may open the door for transformation.

3. A journey together, not a presentation to an audience
We are not in the business of trying to sell anything, convince anyone of anything, or impress anyone, with our logic or with our artistry. Including God. A worship gathering has a bunch of living humans making contact with a living God, and even though we do our very best to plan things well and have a destination in mind, we cannot anticipate or control everything that happens. I don’t think we should want to.

4. It matters that we are all together in one place
There has got to be a difference between coming to church and hearing a sermon on a podcast, listening to Passion CDs in the car, praying in the shower. It has to matter that we can look one another in the eye, touch one another, and actually converse rather than monologue. Our bodies have to matter, and our proximity has to matter.

5. some things are beyond words
Not only is God beyond our logical comprehension – we are. The mundane world is. We need to make peace, deep in our souls, with the idea that God is worth a lifetime of study, service, prayer, digging, listening – and that we are not going to get to ‘answers’. Ever. Much is lost when we try to make God ‘make sense’. It’s not even a good marketing ploy, because smart people can see right through it.

6. The only decent ‘selling point’ in favor of a life with God is that you get to have a life with God.

Friday, September 12, 2008

Back to School with the RevGals

It's time for a Back-To-School Friday Five!

1. Is anyone going back to school, as a student or teacher, at your house? How's it going so far?
Not exactly, though Eric performed at a huge Back-To-School Night last week (a huge success, since kids who wanted to see the show bugged their parents to take them, and so the school had a much bigger parent turnout than usual. Plus, the show kept the kids occupied for an hour, so parents and teachers could confab in relative peace. It was a really good idea! I would never have thought of it!)

Also, the big, brightly-colored ball of utter fabulousness that is Mystery Academy is all ramped up for the fall season, doing after-school programs at a ton of area elementaries. So, while no one's in a classroom for a full day, yeah, we did notice that it was September.

At our church, we treat fall as the new year - new fiscal year, new sermon series, new discipleship groups, and this year, a new way of structuring kids ministries for elementary schoolers.

2. Were you glad or sad when back-to-school time came as a kid?
Glad, I guess (though I imagine that I am gazing through the rosy gauze of nostalgia.) Certainly I was excited to go back to college...

3. Did your family of origin have any rituals to mark this time of year? How about now?
I remember going shopping - we lived in a rural area (to say the least), and so my poor, beleagured parents would pack me and my brother into the car for one whirlwind day of back-to-school clothes and shoe shopping at the glamorous and very sophisticated Harrisburg East Mall. We only went that one time every year, and so, every year, my dad would miss the exit. There we would be, sailing past the mall, keeping up with the traffic, unable to get anywhere near it. So every year, someone would shrug and say "I guess you can't get there from here, huh?"

4. Favorite memories of back-to-school outfits, lunchboxes, etc?
When I was going to kindergarten, I picked out the very best lunchbox from the display at the Rea&Derricks - a Superman lunchbox!

This one. ( confirms that this is the design that was released in 1967. So that would be right.) Look at it! It's gorgeous! The shiny reds, the brilliant's an excellent design.

The kids in my first grade did not see it that way. They made fun of me for having a boy's lunchbox! Why in the world would a lunchbox be a boy's lunchbox? Didn't everyone like Superman? He's super, for Chrissake - how could his appeal be limited to boys? Besides, it was mine, and I was indeed a girl (despite occasional speculation to the contrary) and so it must be a girl's lunchbox. Besides, it's the best one.

My exemplary reasoning did not sway anyone.
(And Mrs. Gross did nothing to intervene on my behalf, I now realize.)
I had the courage of my convictions at school, but broke down in tears at home.
But my mom did the best thing ever. My mom (though it could have been my dad) looked at the box, and had an idea. I chose a nice metallic gold, and we taped off some shapes and spray-painted the box. You could still see some of the great primary colors, but now they made colorful abstract patterns through dot and flower and heart outlines...even the word "LOVE" spelled out in masking tape on one side. It was completely original, one-of-a-kind, and mine. And no one ever made fun of it again.

(The whole gender question persisted, of course. When I was in second grade, I cut my own hair with my mother's layout scissors because I believed that would make me a boy. (Wearing a baseball cap everywhere hadn't quite done it.) This is reflected in my school pictures, where I am wearing a blue turtleneck, 1/16-inch bangs, and the most resentful look you have ever seen.)

5. What was your best year of school?
Second grade was very cool - I had a great teacher, Mrs. Murray. She loved golf and was allergic to grass. She read us Charlotte's Web. She was 6 feet tall, with enormously long arms and legs, and looked a little like Carol Burnett. I didn't know this at 7, but it turns out she was married to a notorious homosexual (it was the 60s, there were still people married to notorious homosexuals) and they had what my mother referred to as 'an arrangement'. I get the feeling that my parents were very fond of her, at least partly in spite of themselves.

Sophomore year of high school, I ran briefly with the Popular Crowd, which I enjoyed. Junior year, I accidentally gathered my own crowd of misfits, philosophers, gender-traitors and underachievers, which I enjoyed much more.